“Let’s meet up during lunch to work on that project.”
“We can’t today. We have to go to the pep rally.”
“What? We’ve got another pep rally? Those things are useless, all we do is sit around and listen to people screaming. Do we have to go?”
“Yeah. If we don’t go, the teachers will probably mark us down as absent.”
“Fine. It’s such a waste of time though. There’s not even real school spirit there.”
You may have heard these quiet sounds of protest about the school before a school event. Whether it be complaints of having to attend a music show or dissent to having to sit through another pep rally, many KIS students give off the feeling that they would rather be somewhere else.
In fact, it’s became a universal truth of sorts: KIS does not have school spirit. It’s become the generally accepted tone of our school’s spirit image. Often times, the argument against going to these school events or meet ups is based on keeping up academic grades or preoccupation with other activities. Each grade level has its reasons: the freshmen are too busy working on a summative project which they feel means the end of the world if they mess up on it, the sophomores are bogged down by trying to finish their next block’s homework, the juniors have gone , and the seniors are too fed up with school to even bother doing anything. We’re a school full of people who would rather keep to themselves than immerse with one another. We’re too busy living our own lives.
Some think that the lack of school spirit in our school is not a fault of the student body, but rather a fault of organisations like Student Council; groups that are designed to improve the school spirit that we so dearly lack.
“The amount of spirit in our school lacks beyond imagination. Take the instance of the freshmen at the last pep rally. Their voices during their chant were practically inaudible. The reason that our school does not possess as much spirit as it could is because there are very few instances where the entire school comes together for any events. A pep rally once in awhile is not sufficient on it’s own to fulfil the purpose of building school spirit.”
—Ricky Seo 11’
“Everybody seems to be able to unite and feel solidarity as a small friend group, a class, and even as a grade level, but never as a school. Also, the school acts as if a simple “Let’s wear blue to show our Phoenix[school mascot] pride!” post on Facebook every Friday and a “Keep flying Phoenix” at the end of every Phoenix TV[school broadcast network] episode will sprinkle some sort of KIS pride magic and suddenly work miracles.”
—Sally Hong 11’
However, representatives of Student Council feel that it is the students’ duty to make an initiative to show school spirit and to engage in the activities that they offer.
“Throughout my high school career, both in and out of Student Council, it’s been evident that Student Council has only been creating more events, and preparing for more activities to keep the students involved. However, the issue of school spirit relies entirely on the students themselves, meaning no matter how hard Student Council tries, the students determine the extent to which school spirit can rise. We’ve done our best to engage a majority instead of a minority at pep rallies, have created varying events and venues, and have done our best to promote each event. Whether such actions help the student body isn’t in our control, as our role as a Student Council is to engage the students, not make choices for them. I think it’s fair to say that student council “could” do more, but currently, the lack of school spirit some students may find comes from the students themselves.”
—Amy Kim 11’ (Student Council Officer)
“There’s only so much Student Council can do; a lot of spirit must come from the attitude and willingness of the students. We set the platform; it’s your choice to stand on it. You’d be surprised how little people are willing to dress up on Phoenix Friday, Spirit Weeks, paint their faces blue, come to home games, Snapchat for spirit points, or cheer for their grade during a pep rally. Stand up and create your own idea of school spirit. Do you really want your high school life to pass by thinking it’s “unspirited” because Student Council isn’t doing enough? Take every opportunity we give, do a little on your own, then maybe… you can complain.”
—JD Choi 11’ (Student Council Officer)
Looking past this blame game of who’s at fault for the seeming dearth of school spirit, it can be said that school spirit itself is something that both sides want to strive for. When I sat down with Ms Turnbeaugh to discuss the implications for school spirit in shaping what students we can become, she had some surprising answers that went beyond the typical scope of what school spirit can do.
“I think, basically, [school spirit] is the foundation of getting involved in your community. Whether it be attending a volleyball game and cheering on the team or supporting a KIS event in any other manner, you are, through that action, giving back to the community. You don’t want to just sit in your apartment and be disconnected from all the excitement that could be in your life. In life as well, through this giving back to community that starts at the school level, you are building character for the future. Things from volunteer service to political engagement or civic activism are built upon the engagement you build up as a student from as early as high school or even middle and elementary school. You should work to make your community a place that you want to live in.”
—Ms Turnbeaugh (English Teacher, Student Council Advisor)
Ultimately, school spirit is not dead, but neither is it truly alive. There are many shortcomings that we as a school have when it comes to school spirit, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t grow a sense of communal bond between ourselves and the school.
A few days ago, while I was chatting with a friend of mine, our conversation shifted to the deficiency of school spirit in our school. But while I ranted away about the results of these drawbacks, she instead brought up a symptom of the problem.
“Maybe the problem isn’t whether or not we love our school. Maybe the real problem is that we don’t have confidence in ourselves.”
Her words profoundly changed the way I approached this issue. It is a fact that the upper grade levels will usually “out-shout” the lower grade levels at pep rallies. This most recent pep rally was no different. This is usually a product of a disparity in confidence. Upperclassmen are at the top of the school “hierarchy” while underclassmen are careful to disrupt this social fabric. Hence, the upper classmen will shout without care while the under classmen will heed what the upperclassmen will think of them.
But this problem goes beyond simple confidence based on age. This is a problem of confidence in ourselves, regardless of who we are. Everyone has doubts or anxieties of some form. Most of these bouts of worry are academic. This causes students to never feel that comfortable at school. Everyday is another battle for them. Be it an AP class, a foreign language class, or extra-curricular activities, some students can never feel at ease in school because of these anxieties. Hence, they are not able to connect with the school and feel that communal bond they so desperately need for they are too busy fighting their individual battles. They see KIS as a foe they must confront and defeat rather than as a friend.
Thus, this problem of school spirit in KIS will never truly go away. To say to students “Have more confidence in yourself” and expect them to suddenly gain that confidence is utter madness. Ironically though, school spirit is the only medicine. Although it won’t be an instant fix, with more interactions and continued opening up of both the students and organizations such as Student Council, these tense defenses of students will slowly thaw. With more exposure to the ecstasy in pep rallies, warmth in winter homecomings, and competition at home games, these rigid fears will begin to relax themselves. It’s an endeavor that requires effort from both students and those who promote school spirit. They need mutual help in order to get mutual benefits.
So the next time you have a dilemma between attending a home game or working for the 5th day straight on a project, you might want to consider taking that break from work. Not only might that help to relax you, but a break from the constant worries might actually help you to build up more of that confidence that you need to take that first step toward being a better KISian.
Written by Ye Chan Song
Featured Image by Joey Park